Frosty Westering Excellence in Coaching Award-Detail

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Frosty Westering Excellence in Coaching Award-Detail
Frosty Westering Excellence in Coaching Award-Detail

Don Gustafson
Life Christian Academy

    Don Gustafson Golf Coach, Life Christian Academy

    By Arnold Lytle
    Don Gustafson has been coaching at Life Christian Academy since the mid-1990s, first baseball, then basketball and golf. He started both boys and girls golf teams, then coached those young golfers to a combined eight state championships in nine years.
    For that remarkable run from nothing to eight titles between 2003 and 2011, and for embodying the positive qualities of legendary Pacific Lutheran football coach Frosty Westering, Gustafson is receiving the 2020 Frosty Westering Coaching Excellence Award from the Tacoma Athletic Commission.
    Gustafson refined his approach to coaching high school athletes as an 11-year assistant to legendary Life Christian boys basketball coach Mark Lovelady.
    "I think I related to kids because I came down to their level," Gustafson said. "I love kids, love to be around them."
    After a year in charge of the middle school boys, Gustafson became the high school baseball coach. He joined the basketball team with Lovelady, the 2017 Westering Award winner, in 1996. It was a relationship that lasted 11 years.
    "I was much older," Gustafson said of Lovelady. "He was young and aggressive. I offered an older viewpoint."
    The Eagles qualified for the state basketball tournament in Gustafson's first season. They reached state six years in a row and seven times in 11 seasons.
    "I did substitutions for (Lovelady)," Gustafson said. "We had a good bench."
    In 2002, Gustafson was approached by two freshmen golfers - Taylor Ferris and Brandon Hjelseth - who asked him to start and coach a varsity golf team.
    Gustafson knew he needed at least five players to compete for a team championship, so he recruited a few boys and the Eagles qualified and won a trophy at the small school state tournament their first season.
    The next year, with current PGA Tour player Andrew Putnam on the team, Life Christian won the first of three straight state championships. They won four titles in five years.
    In 2008, some girls asked Gustafson to start a varsity team for them. Kristen Rue led the way with three individual titles in four years, and the Eagles won four consecutive small school state championships (2008-11), giving Gustafson eight titles in nine years.
    Rue went on to Washington State University on an athletic scholarship. She played every tournament the Cougars entered in her four years, finishing with the third-best per-round average in program history. She is a club pro assistant in Oregon.
    Other standouts for Life Christian those years were Kelly Miller, a frequent state runner-up to Rue and later a four-year player at Portland State; Kendyl Prosser, who played college soccer at Seattle Pacific; and Madisen Bentley, who was twice a state runner-up and played golf for two years at Portland State and two years at Ole Miss.
    "I just happened to be coach at the time and had superior talent," said Gustafson, a recreational golfer. "I think my players would say I wasn't just a coach but a friend."
    Gustafson, in his 18th season as a golf coach at Life Christian, traces his success to his positive attitude, one of Westering's prime qualities.
    "I liked Frosty," Gustafson said. "He was a great speaker, so positive. He was an inspiration to me and to his players."
    As a competitor, Gustafson was twice an all-city basketball guard at Wilson High School. He averaged 17 points a game in the 1966-67 season. He won a trophy with his high school tennis doubles partner Brick Kane. At Seattle Pacific College, where he earned his bachelor's degree in 1971, he participated in basketball and tennis.
    Frosty Westering Excellence in Coaching Award-Detail
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